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What's a Wreck?

A Cake Wreck is any cake that is unintentionally sad, silly, creepy, inappropriate - you name it. A Wreck is not necessarily a poorly-made cake; it's simply one I find funny, for any of a number of reasons. Anyone who has ever smeared frosting on a baked good has made a Wreck at one time or another, so I'm not here to vilify decorators: Cake Wrecks is just about finding the funny in unexpected, sugar-filled places.

Now, don't you have a photo you want to send me? ;)

- Jen

A Kwanzaa Tradition

It's time again for everyone's favorite Kwanzaa tradition: making fun of Sandra Lee's Kwanzaa cake!

For those who've somehow managed to miss it in previous years: that is an angel food cake, covered in chocolate cinnamon frosting, filled with canned apple pie filling, and "garnished" with pumpkin seeds and corn nuts.


The giant taper candles jammed in the cake are presumably there for "culture."

And if you missed any of that, kindly refer to this handy diagram:

(Available as a t-shirt for your next First Fruits Festival!)

This ill-concieved creation has spawned a veritable plethora of ironic baking adventures over the years, as people first recreate it in their own kitchens and then dare each other to eat it. Do a search and you'll find plenty of videos and photos - and the reaction shots of people tasting it are pretty priceless.

Why, Elizabeth in Georgia even made this miniature version for one of our book tour stops:

You must admit, using popcorn kernels in place of corn nuts is pretty inspired.

However, no replica can ever really compete with the original, so gather 'round, my friends, while Aunt Sandra tells us a tale of family, first fruits, and cultural sensitivity:

Also, Corn Nuts are called "acorns." Did you know?

As a side note: I've lost count of how many times I've seen this video over the past four years, but somehow it still unleashes fresh horrors with every viewing. Just looking at that icing makes my teeth hurt, and when you throw in angel food cake - which should never have icing on it to begin with - topped with pumpkins seeds and corn nuts, I'm pretty sure I'd rather gnaw on one of the taper candles.

Oh, and here's an interesting nugget: the person Sandra Lee hired to write this "recipe" later confessed, and her only defense? "The candles were her [Lee's] idea." (I know; I'm still reeling over the fact that Lee paid someone to come up with Corn Nuts and cinnamon icing, too.)

Say, do you think Lee would be in the market for my new St. Patrick's Day recipe? It's a store-bought pie shell filled with frozen orange soda, chopped Circus Peanuts, and Cool Whip. For garnish I have Andes Mints and Doritos crumbs, and for decoration, a can of Guiness jammed "festively" in the middle. I'll be rich, I tell you, RICH!! MWUAH-HA-HAAA!

Feel free to share your own semi-homemade recipes in the comments, since my family's all gone home, John's playing Borderlands 2 again, and I might be a little bored. And....GO.

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Reader Comments (122)

Surely the st patricks day "cake" would need to have lime soda, you know cause it's green. There should also be some potatoes involved somewhere.

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

For your next dose of "Semi-Homemade Songs", sing this to "The Ballad of Gilligan's Island"

Just sit right back and you'll read a tale
A tale of a Kwanzaa cake
That Sara Lee did on her show
Don't even have to bake!

You start with a store-bought angel cake
You'll need to split in two
Frosting, cinnamon and cocoa
Will make a brown-tinged goo. (Sticky brown-tinged goo...)

Take lots of the brownish icing stuff
Between the layers frost
If you don't use plenty of the Kwanzaa glue
Cohesion will be lost, cohesion will be lost

Now gather 'round the rest of your ingredients -- let's check!
There's pumpkin seeds
Pie filling, too
Big candles and a sharp knife
More frosting goo
And some corn nuts that we'll call acorns
All for our Kwanzaa wreck!

Thanks, Jen. There's so much food in the house I needed something that would suppress my appetite.

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSharyn

Very funny!

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSamantha J

Horrifying? YES.

However, between the author and the hostess, I think I'd rather be in the delusional shoes of Ms Lee. The recipe author's confessional basically says, "Yes, I am an unprincipled whore for money...And I will bite the hand that feeds me."

And seriously? That Fig. 1 illustration of the Kwanzaa cake would make an EXCELLENT t-shirt. Really!

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

Susanne, I'd buy that t-shirt

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

Bwahahaha, I would LOVE to see her try and pull that stunt here in NYC :D Also, Sharyn, thanks for the giggles on a crappy morning :D

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermindy1

I watched the Sandra Lee video and couldn't stop snickering. How clueless is she? I can understand having people ghost-write your recipes because you can't think them all up on your own but when your ghost-writers start throwing random items together - like "acorns" (I immediately envisioned collecting them from the oak tree in the yard and fighting the squirrels for them) and cocoa-cinnamon-vanilla extract-vanilla frosting - it's time to re-think your employment contract with that person...

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPip

mindy1 -- So sorry the morning is crappy. I hope it helps a little that you know you don't have to eat the Kwanzaa monstrosity, and that the day improves...

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSharyn

Is there such a thing as a real kwanzaa cake?

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMinatomachi

I had no idea this existed. I am literally in amazement. Thank you so much for enlightening me this snowy, Kwanzaa morning.

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHeather

Ok, two horrifying recipes for your culinary displeasure:

Texas Independence Pie: (for Texas Independence Day, March 2nd

Take a pecan pie (us Texans *love* our pecans), and cover it in *yellow* frosting. You may have to dye vanilla frosting with yellow dye or you could use lemon frosting, if there is such a thing. (It's in honor of the yellow rose of Texas, who supposedly delayed Santa Ana @ San Jacinto w/her feminine wiles.) Then, stick cinnamon crisps (I think that's what they're called) from Taco Bell into the frosting. (Oops - just found out - they don't sell those anymore!) Ok, cinnamon sugar tortilla crisps. You can get them @ most stores. If you can't find them, get a couple of tortillas, cut 'em up, spread melted butter on them (DUNK!), sprinkle cinnamon sugar (1:13 ratio) (another DUNK! step), bake @ 400F for 10-15min, then stick in the frosting on the pie. Add a Texas flag - heck, stick in all 6! And Voila, there's your Texas Independence Pie. (You may wish to substitute whipped cream for icing. If so, REMEMBER The Yellow Food Coloring! ;-)

Cajun Delight: (for our longing to have our own country & for my beloved Cajun hubby!)

Make a stack of beignets, or French Toast, or just mix 'em up. Cover in a *mountain* of whipped cream. Stick the Cajun flag (Yes, we DO have a Cajun flag!) on top. Garnish the perimeter of the plate with boiled crawfish and boiled corn, alternating as you go. The bigger the crowd, the bigger your pile of Beignets/French Toast should be...and remember...suck them heads!!!

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKarateLady

I had no idea this existed either- goodness, must show this to my husband so he can appreciate the white trash dessert properly- really at no point does Sandra ever say "this is too trashy even for me"

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAnne

Oh, my... I'll have you know that we had to pause the video because our cat vomited right in the middle of it. The video. Not, you know, the cake. Anyway, I can't actually prove that it was the Sandra Lee video that caused it, but, just saying.

Perhaps she needs to expand her repertoire of brown food additives for this icing. I'm thinking soy sauce, liquid smoke, and grated ginger for her next batch.

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterkhereva

Eastern Kentucky New Year's Eve "Cake": Buy a whole box of Moon Pies (NOT the ralph-inducing banana flavored!!) Save one back. Open the rest of the pies and break into bite-sized chunks. Toss into a festive bowl (not the plastic one stained with last week's three bean chili.) Pour enough good Kentucky bourbon over the Moon pies to flavor 'em but don't drown 'em. Eat the "bourbon moon pie" and wash it down with the rest of the bourbon. When the count-down begins, take the saved Moon pie outside, cram a stick on dynamite in the middle of it, light the fuse and get outta the way. Bring the new year in with a bang the neighbors will never forget.

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLorie

So the "home made" recipe that's floating around here is: take some square pretzels (the tic tac toe ones), place on baking sheet, top each with an unwrapped Rolo, warm in oven until just soft, take outand top with another pretzel. Press down a bit to make a sandwich, chill to harden. Best to stop there but I suppose one could stick them in an angel cake for decorations...

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPam B

Sharyn - hahaha! (As usual..).hmmm...maybe Barbara Anne *is* right & you are sucking all the creativity out of existence & keeping it for yourself?! That would explain the Kwanzaa cake! ;-) But it wouldn't explain Jen's enormous creativity & funniness alongside you, so that hypothesis is officially disproved & discarded...

Moving on...did anyone read about how that ghost writer also came up with Hanukkah cake as well that used MARSHMALLOWS?! See, most marshmallows use pork or beef-based gelatin, so they are *not* kosher! There was such an uproar that the recipe was removed from Sandra's recipe book. The ghost writer said that the marshmallows were there just to hold up the icing & the Star of David & prevent a cake cave-in. Apparently, making a kosher cake never crossed her mind (Or Sandra Lee's, who was converting to Judaism @ the time, according to said ghost recipe writer.) And it, too, was made of angel food cake because, according to the ghost writer, Sandra Lee wanted a series of TEN holiday *angel food* cakes. I'm not sure I'll ever trust a magazine or TV recipe again!... Well,I'll make an exception for Living Without because they're the only mag with gluten-free, dairy-free, AND egg-free recipes for my kids. (Yes, all in one recipe - I'm on a culinary adventure for life and apparently zoomom has the dubious privilege of sharing it with me. Hope your GF vegan Xmas dinner was a hit, zoomom!)

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKarateLady

OMG. I just watced the Hanukkah version (angel food + marshmellows in center + baby blue icing + non edible pearl jewelry + wonky Star of David topper) of the Kwanzaa cake and her Noel cake that was made of 50 lbs of icing + twizzlers + storebought cake. This is just hilarious. I definitely recommend youtubing those two cakes if you haven't seen those either.

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJillie

At Jillie's suggestion, I just watched the Hanukkah version as well. And for me the best part (aside from stuffing marshmallows in the hole) is her "trick" of pulling a knife up the side of the frosting to make a "decorative detail". So a sloppy frosting job is now considered decorative? Awesome--I can totally do that.

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHeather

Sharyn, your songs make me laugh to the point that my husband thinks he is married to a mad woman, lol!

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAnne

Thanks for the laughs this morning. :) Being together in one house for Christmas, I gathered my siblings together to read today's post. We ended up cracking up, searching for similar YouTube videos, and reading a bunch of other CakeWrecks posts. Thanks for keeping us entertained on this very cold and snowy morning. :)

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermillbrit

Hahaha, I too took Jillie's advice and watched the Noel and Hanukkah versions. Wasn't sure if I was on YouTube or The Onion. Awesome.

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGretchen

"Look, black people, see how multicultural I am?" I'm surprised she didn't suggest to serve it with fried chicken and watermelon! I wonder what booze drinks she made for this episode and whether they included malt liquor. I also wonder how many people have tried to make this using actual acorns since that's what she calls them.

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterpikkewyntjie

We have an ongoing discussion as to whose house you're more likely to get a food-borne illness in ~ Sandra Lee or Rachael Ray.

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTracey

Why, oh why didn't we get to watch her eat that?

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJuliette

Making fun of this travesty of cooking is like taking candy from a baby. She's just so bad - I'm embarrassed to have suggested that what she does is anything like cooking.. Back at my favorite cooking forum, she's referred to as "SWMNBN" - She Who May Not Be Named.

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterStevenHB

Help! I am all out of "acorns." Do you think I could use Sugar Pops/Corn Pops instead? I wouldn't want to go to all that trouble to make a homemade cake, and then ruin it with an inappropriate garnish.

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDeborah

squirrels all over the world are shedding tears...from laughter.....

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermel

Semi-Homemade Arbor Day Cake

Buy two loaves of any nut bread from your local bakery. Stand them up vertically, one on top of the other, end on end, to form the trunk of the tree.

Buy a can of maple frosting. To make it more authentic, mix in some maple syrup. Discounted store brand is fine. Smear it over the tree cake.

Now, for the pizzazz! Go outside and find a limb lying around. The rougher the bark, the better. Bring it inside and roll it over the icing to give it a lovely bark texture.

Finally, push cinnamon sticks into your "tree" to form branches, and use icing to attach maple leaves to them.

Tada, a fabulous, semi-homemade Arbor Day Cake that can double as a Canada Day Cake! You're welcome.

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDB

I am reposting my favorite quote on the YouTube site: "Leave it to Sandra Lee to make a cake from ingredients you can find at a gas station."

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBetsy

So when is "Cocktail Time?" That is all...

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMicki

Didn't anyone doing the editing for this program realize that

1. Corn nuts are not called acorns
2. This cake looks discussing
3. Those candles are WAY too large for that cake

Or perhaps they were high when editing.

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMellissa Rose

That Hanukkah cake is such a horror. how the heck are you supposed to cut through those giant marshmallows crammed int he center? and the way she shoved that star into the cake, it becomes a five pointed star - and then she's insulting TWO religions. Awesome!

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRuthAnn

If you had ever tasted my grandma's angel food cake with lemon icing, you would not say angel food cake should *never* have icing.

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterShauna

After watching an episode with Sandra Lee in a tank top flapping her bare armpits over the food she was preparing, I consider any photo of her in sleeves as a win for her. BUT anyone that thinks canned frosting is edible shouldn't have the responsibility of preparing foods for others.

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTiarella

I broke down, couldn't help myself, I actually watched an episode of "Semi-Homemade"--because I was filled with fascination and morbid curiosity at the idea of a "No-Bake Wedding Cake". And Miss Lee did not disappoint. She took three different sized sheet cakes from a grocery store bakery and laid them on top of each other (not bothering to remove the cardboard "plate" first) and then jammed cookies all around. Voila! Done. Time for cocktails! And let's not measure the vodka--we'll just glug it out of the bottle... I get the feeling Sandra doesn't use recipes for her drinks too often.

But the thing that truly horrified me, mouth open, was her "tablescape". This woman has never heard of the "less is more" concept. Food Network must have warehouses of her shit--she had a table that would make Liberace vomit. Candelabras, roses, hanging beads, you name it. I honestly don't know where the food would go. Truly she is to be pitied.

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSaraCVT

Pam B--My family made those this year, only instead of a second pretzel, the top layer was a pecan half. They are a tasty little turtle-esque candy. (The ones where my mom used caramel-filled Hershey's Kisses were a little better, I thought.) My grandmother claimed to have 'invented' these, though, and insists on calling them 'Pretzolos'. I can't sem to go so far as using that name. lol

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBoumama

The sweeping generalizations are so universal! I mean, everyone has cocoa in their house and who DOESN'T love frosting the inside of an angel food cake with instant tooth decay?

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMegan

I'm just relieved to know I'm not the only one who doesn't understand how this woman ever got a "cooking" show on ANY channel, much less a channel dedicated to cooking. She makes my mother look like a culinary genius and that's saying a lot.

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

You know, I'm a little conflicted with this. Well, not really but ever so slightly. Part of me is saying, "Good for her for trying to be culturally sensitive and incorporating this into her show instead of being like some jerkfaces and say that it's not a real holiday." Inclusion: That's what it's all about (after putting in various body parts and gyrating them, of course.)! Then the rest of me is like "Dude... really? This is the best you can do? An angel food cake suffocated under icing, drowned in apple crap, sprinkled with nuts and seed, and stabbed to death with taper candles? Word?" I can respect the effort to be inclusive but this... this right here... is sad.

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCandace

Well, the one thing i took away form this (other than the laughs) was the idea of chocolate cinnamon frosting. But NO - I'm not planning to start with canned stuff ! AHHHH!

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEvelyn

At least Sandra Lee is *trying*! har har har...
Although, now I'm intrigued at what an actual Kwanza cake is... and I hope they jam taper candles in them too! hahahaha...
But in all honesty I'd probably eat that St. Patty's Day cake. [well... maybe just the Guiness.]

Sounds like my Holiday too - got home from ze' relatives... played some Borderlands 2! [I hope John plays Gaige!!! ♥] and went into a small coma.


December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDonna B.

There actually is a Kwanzaa fruitcake. And going by this recipe, I'm pretty sure it would be delicious.

Seriously, Sandra Lee. Y U NO RESEARCH.
Course, I guess it's because making the fruitcake as outlined in the recipe there wouldn't really be semi-homemade.
I mean, I do understand. Some people aren't a dab hand at the cooking, or just don't have the time, and I get that. In which case, shortcuts are pretty friggin' swell.
But Lee's show really always just made me think, "This is making homemade definitely-from-scratch food look seriously awesome."

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterM

Thank you so much for some levity! I always enjoy your posts. The comments make it even more fun. I am currently taking care of a friend who is dying of cancer and need all the levity I can get.
Please keep the funny cakes coming.
You have put in my mind a mission. I will now have to spend some time surfing the net to find out if there is, in fact, any special 'holiday' cakes.
I agree that angel food cake was NEVER intended to have frosting put on it. Strawberries, in sugar syrup, YES! but NEVER frosting. Especially a chocolate cinnamon frosting! I have false teeth and even my teeth hurt when listening to the description of the frosting.
Sharyn - keep the songs coming! I love those. I actually sit and sing them, not just read them.

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterkim

Is she a closet racist? 'Cause this cake is outing her.

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteralissa

What a nasty combination of flavors. Chocolate and apples? With pepitas and corn nuts. Nasty.

I have to confess, I made a 3-tier FROSTED angel food wedding cake (with cherry filling) when I was 16 for my sister's wedding. I sent my dad to the store for the cake mixes and that's what he bought, so that's what I made. Frosted with an old fashioned decorators icing -- you know the one, shortening, powdered sugar vanilla & water (perfect recipe for oreo filling). Anyway it was actually a great cake.

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterValerie

Here's our favorite holiday recipe, which also calls for circus peanuts.

"and garnish with a wind up shrew."

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVivianne

Ah! Have y'all seen Sandra Lee's Cocktail Tree?!

It puts Jen's steampunk tree to shame, I tell you!

I am watching the Noel cake one. Ugh! She just frosted cardboard into the cake.

I agree with Karen on the St. Paddy's day 'cake'. It needs potatoes and should be green. Slice some raw potatoes, color them with green food coloring and use them to form a nice four leaf clover on top of the 'cake'! I think Sandra Lee would approve.

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea

Um... I clicked the link to the "confession" article, and it took me to a site that is definitely NOT related to today's post (a bit NSFW, if you catch my drift). I don't know if anyone else had this issue, but just letting you know, just in case.

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTracey S.

I'm not sure about the cake but I'm sure about the candles. It's something my family picked up while living in Germany. You start four weeks out from Christmas Eve. You burn one candle the first week and have a holiday themed activity as a family night. The second week you burn two candles and so on replacing the candles every week so on Christmas Eve you have five candles going. We don't use a cake but have a wreath to hold our candles.

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPaulie

I can't watch her; it's a train wreck, attractive for many of the same reasons that Honey Boo Boo is a national sensation.

However it reminds me of a PBS cooking show I saw decades ago. A woman made a round (box mix) yellow cake (two tiers), then brought out several cans of white frosting. She tinted one can yellow and used that on the round cake layers. Then she brought out a HUGE box of TWINKIES, FROSTED EACH OF THEM in white, arranged them in TWO TIERS the first cake to make something that looked vaguely daisy-like.

To this day I cannot get the image of frosted twinkies out of my head.

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca

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